Disaster Strikes! Rain/Snake Edition

I, sir, have had enough.

It all started about a week and a half ago with this:

Screenshot of a Facebok status that reads "Should we discuss the rain? Or the window in my basement that blew out because of the water? Or the GIANT BLACK SNAKE that was apparently living there that I saw retreating into the ground after the window broke? Or the fact that Alex took a 45-minute conference call before leaving work after my panicked call? We can discuss any of those things."It was a bad couple of hours.

I texted my friend, explained the situation, and said, “THIS IS THE WORST THING THAT HAS EVER HAPPENED TO ME,” and she texted back to say, “I think this is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone.”

In his defense, Alex did come home before he had planned to so he could help me. This was fortunate considering where once there had been a window, there was now a gaping below-ground hole. Once he arrived home, he took over the wetvac job from me. He even duct taped the hole that the snake disappeared into.

Photo taken of an underground window well taken from inside the house. A screen is jammed into the hole where a window should have gone. There is duct tape on the metal well sides.

See the ripped screen I jammed in the window hole to keep wildlife out?

But prior to his arrival home, I’d been wetvaccing like it was my job while ready to jump into defensive posture if I found a nest of snake babies that had gushed into the basement along with my window and a significant number of leaves, because, and let’s be honest here, if anyone were to find a nest of snake babies in her house, it would be me.

I’m still not quite comfortable with the knowledge that they live just outside my home. Also, a tip: If you’re afraid there might be a snake in your basement, don’t Google “can snakes climb stairs?” because they can and there are lots of photos—and even some video.

I then had to make an emergency phone call to an emergency window guy without consulting with Mr. Conference Calls Are My Life. I understand that this might not sound like a big deal to a lot of you, but to me it was. Finding and calling a brand-new vendor without discussing it with Alex first? That was all kinds of anxiety for me.

I mean, sure, it’s a week and a half later and we still have a board nailed across the hole instead of a new window, so the jury is still out on how well I chose a window repairman, but at least there is a board there. And the guy came by at 10:30 pm on a Thursday to put it there. And he swears he’s coming back on Monday with a brand new window, so I’ll give you our final opinion then.

Of course, the past week and a half have been incredibly rainy and we did a LOT of wetvac work before really coming to grips with the fact that the exploded window was not a cause of our water problem, but rather another innocent victim. The problem is a window well with rain/snake access points.

Alex has done some temporary patching of said window well, which seems to be helping (knockonwood knockonwood knockonwood), so our panic attacks when it starts to rain are lessening.

The exterminator (to eliminate any mice that might be attracting snakes) has already come. The window guy (as previously discussed) is coming back Monday. And the landscapers (who will fix our window wells and improve our yard drainage) start Wednesday.

I’m pretty sure it will never rain again. You’re welcome.

That said, if any of you ever tell my kids about the snake, they will never go in the yard again and whoever told them will be dead to me.

Disaster Strikes! Gerbil Edition

Yesterday got away from me. I had a lot scheduled in the morning, but wanted to take my kids out somewhere to do something fun in the afternoon. I thought I might take them to a movie or maybe on a hike. At the very least we were going to go out to a park.

After my morning and early afternoon appointments, I walked into my office, which is where the gerbils live, and I found two of the girls, Scissorpaws and Jefferie, scuffling and covered in blood. COVERED in blood. Because I’m smart, I broke up their fight with my hand.

That wasn’t the bite that caused all my bleeding though.

I knew I had to separate the two fighters, so I tried to pick up Scissorpaws to put her in my gerbil travel cage and that is when I got the bite that caused all my bleeding.

I called to Sam to bring me the phone and a towel for my finger and I was covered in blood and the gerbils were covered in blood and I did a really goddamn good job of traumatizing my first born, so let’s just call that a win, okay?

Then I had to make an emergency call to the vet. Ironically, when the vet receptionist asked, “Is this an emergency or can I ask you to hold?” I told her I could hold because I evidently am not willing to admit I am making an emergency call even if I am making an emergency call.

I panicked a little when I was trying to figure out how to get both animals to the vet without creating a tiny cage match in my car because I only have one travel cage. Sam is the brilliant one who suggested I put one of them in Tupperware. He’s smart. And level-headed.

I used scissors to stab air holes in the lid though—AND I did it BEFORE I put the gerbil in it—so I’m not completely useless.

Photo of Jefferie in a small travel cage for rodents. Next to her is a small plastic container, in which you can see the shadow of a gerbil.

This is after they came home from the vet. There was a lot less blood by this point.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the vet hospital when it occurred to me that a gerbil bite might be, you know, bad for me as well as the gerbils. I texted my sister the doctor to ask her how likely it was that I would die from a gerbil bite and she told me that it was likely and I should get treated.

I found this upsetting, but reasonable.

I left the gerbils with the vet, who was giving them fluids and anti-inflammatories and antibiotics and pain medicine because those poor little guys were ripped up. They really did a number on each other. Also, If we were to determine how much money I spent per ounce of gerbil on this visit, well, let’s just say I was already depressed enough and also unable to count that high in my semi-agitated state.

Happily, all the treatment those little guys needed gave me ample time to, you know, get a tetanus shot.

Before I was able to go to a human doctor though, I had to go to the pet store to get new gerbil cages because clearly these two gerbils will never be able to live together again and also I can’t trust them with Jetpack, who remained unscathed through the great Gerbil Fiasco of 2015.

Then I waited at an urgent care clinic for an hour and a half for a doctor to confirm that I had, in fact, been bitten by a gerbil and should get a tetanus shot. It then took six minutes for a nurse to give me said tetanus shot and put a bandaid on my finger.

The gerbils still weren’t ready, even though they’d been at the vet for three hours, so I drove home and assembled my new gerbil cages. Then I went to the vet to trade a million dollars for my damaged gerbils and their medicines, which need to be administered via teensy syringes twice a day for ten days.

I very carefully put the gerbils in their new cages, which turned out to be veeeeeery interesting to the cats.

Photo of a small plastic and metal cage with a gerbil inside it. Starfire the cat is right next to it. It is crammed into the back of a bookshelf.

I put them way back on a shelf, surrounded by books so the cats couldn’t push them off of the shelf.

Guess what happened right after I did this?

It turns out when you purchase cheap less expensive cages, they are much lighter than glass tanks and cats have the ability to maneuver them around.

I heard a crash and ran into the office to find that the cats had knocked Jefferie’s cage to the ground and the poor gerbil, although still safely in the cage, thank God, was presumably not very happy, so I moved the new cages with their new residents to my bedroom behind a now permanently closed door so the cats don’t use them as maracas.

Thus far I’ve administered medicine to them twice and no one has been bitten, which, yay! I also haven’t developed tetanus, so I feel pretty good about that, even if my arm hurts where I got the shot.

Both Jefferie and Scissorpaws seem to be doing okay, although they are pretty beat up. Poor kiddos. I have no idea what set them off. But silver lining, at least now we get to hear the scribble scrabble of gerbil paws on plastic all night long, so there’s that.

Fingers crossed for a quick and pain-free recovery for them. I think this incident may have scared me straight from getting new rodents for a while.

And the Happy Dance Was Danced All Around

Today was my kids’ last day of school for the year.

*cue happy dance*

*cue more happy dance*

*stand still for a second*

*launch back into happy dance*

Dude. It has been QUITE a school year. Some of it has been pretty rough. Some of it has been fantastic. All of it is now behind us and I can’t say that I’m sorry. I feel very happy about facing down 62 days (Quinn tells me it is 62 days and if anyone knows that particular statistic, it’s him) of summer.

We celebrated by visiting our traditional last-day-of-school ice cream joint.

Photo of my three kids. Quinn is looking at the camera. Sam is reflected in a mirror behind Quinn, Jack is sitting nexdt to Quinn with his back to the camera, but you can see his face in the mirror.

Happy kids are happy.

This particular ice cream place is weird and hardly ever has customers and feels kinda grungy, but several years ago we went there on the last day and now we go every single year. It works out because none of us ever want to go there any other day of the year, so it’s kind of a disgusting little treat that makes all of us happy.

Sam had a pretty good year this year. He was in 7th grade and has really started to become his own person. I know I always say this, but it’s very cool to watch your kid learn who they are. I am really proud of him as a young man. He’s a good kid.

He’s also super into music. He’s been playing both flute and bassoon in jazz band and advanced band, respectively, and he’s also picking up piano from his general music class. He has all kinds of pretentious ideas about who on the radio is a real musician and who is just in it for the money. (Coldplay and Taylor Swift, for example. Guess who falls into which category.)

When I went to pick Sam up from his bus stop today, I found him running joyfully down the street with his arms flailing about in the air. It was his version of the happy dance.

Jack has also had a good year. He started middle school (6th grade) this year and adjusted to it admirably. I think it helped that his two best friends are in the same program at the same school as him. He also met some new friends who are wonderful. Jack is a very popular and lucky boy.

Jack isn’t particularly verbally expressive, but it is easy to see how grown up he is getting too. I love watching him soak up what is going on around him. I sometimes feel like I can see his brain processing things. There is a lot going on inside that boy’s head.

In addition to his deep thoughts, much of what is going on inside his head is probably a constant cataloging and re-cataloging of information about Mario and Luigi. I had absolutely no idea that there was so much written information about that pair and their friends on the internet as there is. Jack could probably write a three-volume biography of them at this point.
Quietly sidling up to the computer to review said information after his bus dropped him at home was his version of a happy dance.
Quinn has had the rockiest year. It was hard for him because he had to start 4th grade at an entirely new school where he didn’t know a single person. I think about the terror that I feel in certain situations and I am awed by how brave Quinn was to walk into that school.
I talked to him about that today. I reminded him of his first day, when we missed the morning bus and he was crying (and understandably so) when I dropped him off in the morning and how in the afternoon he forgot what bus stop to get off at and ended up in the wrong place and how hard it was for him. Then I reminded him about all the friends he’s made and how he is comfortable with the school and its rules and how much he’s learned. I told him how proud of him I am.
He tried not to smile. He wasn’t about to let on that he is proud of himself too. But I know he is. That kid is a superhero. He did a great job this year. He has had a momentous year in terms of school supports and figuring out what works and so on, but that’s his story to tell. All I’m going to say is that he is learning about himself and he has a team that wants him to self-advocate and he is definitely in the right school, surrounded by the right people.
He was the last of my three kids to arrive home today. I was standing on the porch doing my happy dance, which he greeted with a huge smile. That kid works SO hard to get through his day. I could almost see the weight rolling off his shoulders as he walked away from his bus.
All in all, it was a good school year, but I’m still glad it’s over.
Screenshot of my status update from the Stimeyland Facebook page: "For those of you who have kids who struggle in school, who work SO goddamn hard to get through each day, and who do so with strength, resolve, the skin of their teeth, or just plain sticktoitiveness, please join me in celebrating the last motherfucking day of school! Hells yeah."

Also, for those of you who have kids who don’t struggle and also teachers. Maybe especially teachers.

Here’s to summer.

*continue happy dance*

Spike, We Will Miss You

Back when Stimeyland experienced its gerbil population explosion, I noticed within the first few days that one of them had an arm disability. One of the little girls had a twisted hand so I made sure to give her a super tough name and I sent her out into the gerbil world.

Delightfully, she always looked like she was waving.

Photo of a small white gerbil standing on her hind legs. Her front paws are in front of her, one of which is twisted up so it looks like she's waving.

HI!!!!!

Spike did great in life, foraging for seeds and chewing up cardboard with her sisters and her mom, but sadly, she is the first of the babies to leave us, a little more than two years after her most exciting debut.

You were a very good and very tough gerbil, Spike. You will be missed.

Houston, We Have a Long Overdue Vacation Recap

My kids’ spring break was about two months ago. (When I started writing this post, it was only a month.) My family took the opportunity to visit my mom and stepfather in Houston. This is the story of that trip. It’s going to be really long. It’s mostly for my mom. Settle in.

On trips past, our day of travel has often been full of drama (and barf) and trauma (and barf) and stress (and still more barf). This time, there was one tension-filled moment after Sam bolted from the cab that took us to the airport to stand queasily over a garbage can, but after we filled him with lunch food and Dramamine, the rest of the trip was smooth sailing.

(We’ve learned some lessons about air travel with Team Stimey since our first expeditions. You can read about one such nightmarish expedition by clicking this here link or by Googling “stimeyland plane doritos barf.”)

I mean, sure, Quinn ripped a piece off of the airplane almost instantly upon sitting in his seat, but it didn’t seem totally necessary to the safe operation of the plane, plus we were able to reattach it pretty quickly.

Photo of Quinn reaching up to the air vent from his airplane seat.

I became aware that the plane was at risk when Quinn held up the ring that adjusts the air vent and said, “What do I do with this?”

Quinn didn’t remember flying on an airplane before. His palpable excitement and joy in taking off was super fun and infectious. When that kid is happy, he can light up a good three rows of airplane seats.

I don’t think there is anything quite as good as seeing your own kid be incredibly delighted by something. This plane flight was one of those things for Quinn.  Then we landed and it was my mom’s turn to be incredibly delighted by her grandchildren.

Photo taken of the back rwo rows of a minivan. In the center row sit my mom and I. In the back seat are Jack, Quinn, and Sam.

Smiles all around. (That’s my mom on the right.)

We flew into Houston the day before Easter and although we’re not big Easter celebrators, we *do* color eggs and eat chocolate, so there were some things we had to take care of instantly upon arrival.

Close up of Jack leaning on his elbows over a little cup in which a blue dye tablet is dissolving into vinegar.

The best part of dying eggs is obviously watching the dye tablets dissolve into vinegar. I think Jack agrees. He watched this for a long time.

We usually just color the eggs, each of us in our own way.

Three photos: 1. Jack staring deeply into a dye cup in which a dark blue egg sits 2. Quinn holding out a yellow egg. 3. Sam wearing a shirt with a big star on it staring at the camera.

1. Jack spent a reeeeaaaally long time on one egg. 2. Quinn worked hard on creating the special GOLDEN egg. 3. Sam whisked through his eggs, then stared at me derisively.

We experimented with actually eating and/or poking at the eggs as well this year.

Three photos: 1. Jack is exploring a couple of broken, smashed up hard-boiled eggs on a paper towel. 2. Alex's hands hold out an egg, broken in half. Jack is poking at it with his fingertip. 3. Close up of Quinn taking the tiniest bite ever of a hard boiled egg.

A couple of the eggs didn’t make it due to issues with their structural integrity. We may not have eaten them, but we definitely got our money’s worth through tactile exploration.

Also, there is actual proof of my being on this vacation because my stepfather (Richard) takes photos like I take photos, in that just like I take a lot of pictures, he does too, but his are high quality and well composed whereas mine are like this:

Photo of my stepfather holding a camera to his eye, mid photo-taking.

If you are impressed with a photo in this post, he probably took it. If it is merely functional, chances are it is mine.

This pretty much wrapped up our first day in Houston, except for a debacle involving a jacuzzi tub and waaaaay too much bubble bath. I would like to state for the record that said debacle was not my fault.

Easter morning brought many fun activities:

Photo of Sam, Jack and Quinn hunting for eggs in a backyard.

The customary egg hunt wherein at least one egg gets left behind to rot.

Candy eating.

[Photo not available, but trust me, it happened. Aaaall week.]

Photo of Quinn walking on a rectangle area rug.

Walking in circles on this most excellent rug that was placed as if it were meant just for walking in circles on it.

Sam and Jack peeling hard boiled eggs.

Fine-motor activities in the form of peeling eggs for egg salad. These eggs were extraordinarily difficult to peel.

Photo of Sam sitting on the floor in front of a giant gong.

Gonging. My mom had a whole story about how she acquired this gong in Indonesia, but I couldn’t hear it because, you know, Sam was hitting a fucking gong.

Before I carry on to the rest of our day, I need to tell you about this place that my mom and Richard go to ALL THE TIME. There is a state park near them where there are wild alligators and birds and other animals. They go there to walk and take photos a lot. Frankly, the possibility of seeing this place in person instead of just in photos posted on Facebook was probably 60-65% of the reason we chose to travel to Houston in the first place.

Mostly I wanted to meet this guy and all of his friends.

Photo of an alligator just a few feet from me on the shore of a river.

This guy came walking up the shore as Alex and I were walking by. It was pretty cool.

He had a lot of friends.

We ended up taking about a five-mile out-and-back walk, which was all well and good until Quinn decided at the 2.5-mile mark that he was DONE. Part of that had to do with the heat and that he was tired. And part of it had to do with the fact that we wouldn’t let him rip a shell off a turtle and take it home. We’re extremely unreasonable.

It was about this time that Jack lost steam as well.

Photo of my mom and Jack on a bench. Jack is lying down and my mom is staring off into the distance.

Evidently we’re not “Texas heat” kind of people.

They pulled it together though, which I assume you know because you are aware that I didn’t leave them out there with the alligators at mile marker 2.5.

Photo taken over the wooden railing of an elevated observation deck. I'm looking down at Sam who is looking up at me.

Although I did spend some time in the relative peace and quiet of an observation deck. Most of them didn’t have the energy to chase me. (Hi, Sam!)

Naturally, you don’t go wading and pet wild alligators. You do, however, go to the visitor center and pet baby wild alligators though.

Photo of a man's hand holding a very small alligator.

Isn’t he cute? This makes two baby alligators I’ve petted.

Then we went and got ice cream because that is also what you do. We ate a LOT of ice cream while in Texas. I’m not saying we bribed our kids, but that is one reason why Quinn and Jack aren’t still living with the alligators.

Photo of my mom and four boys hanging all over her grinning.

That’s my mom with my kids and their cousin, who also lives in Texas. He’s a cool kid.

The next day was Travel to the Ocean in Galveston Day and also Alex’s birthday. That was a good day. My kids love them some beach time.

Photo of me sitting in a chair on the beach, smiling. Sam and Jack are behind me, burying Quinn in the sand.

It was also the day we re-established that my kids have exactly the opposite sensory reaction to sand as me.

Quinn also tried to sneak up on some birds.

Photo of Quinn army crawling across the sand toward a flock of seagulls.

It did not work.

Alex had a good birthday and was served a way fancier dinner than he ever would have gotten at my house.

Photo of Alex, Quinn, my mom, Richard, me, and Jack at a dining room table. Sam took the photo.

I think that everyone even kept their shirt on, which isn’t a guarantee with my crew, although most of them were wearing pajamas.

I even gave him a small version of sad cone.

Photo of a small orange rubber cone in a plastic box. On it I've drawn a frowny face and the words "I am sad cone."

It’s supposed to be an iPhone stand, but that is not its Team Stimey Approved Function.

One thing I find amusing about traveling to new places is that people often go to the zoo. I find that amusing because animals are the same no matter where you are, but you still go to see the new ones in the new city.

On Tuesday, we went to the zoo.

The Houston Zoo is delightful. I mean, it’s a hundred million degrees even in April, but it is absolutely lovely. We saw otters and elephants and cheetahs and all kinds of great animals, but the best thing we saw, in a sort of gift from the universe, was this squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie.

Photo of a squirrel eating a chocolate chip cookie.

Then Quinn tried to steal the cookie from the squirrel and the squirrel ran away. This sounds like I’m making a joke, but it really happened.

Quinn also found a goat he wanted to bring home as a pet.

Photo of a goat facing Quinn. Quinn is squatting in front of him, staring intently at him.

This goat.

I was all, “You can’t take that goat home; he lives here,” and Quinn was like, “Can you at least ask the zookeeper?”

I did not ask the zookeeper. With my luck they would have given us the goat.

You can’t spend every day on vacation chasing squirrels and birds and…hey, wait a minute. Maybe I should take a closer look at how much of Quinn’s time he spends chasing animals.

Anywho, we did spend some time relaxing as well. We took in a movie, we ran some errands…

Photo of Jack at the self checkout at Home Depot. There is a video camera over the monitor. Jack is taking a closeup of his finger.

I have absolutely no recollection of why we were at Home Depot, but I do enjoy Jack’s use of the self-checkout monitoring system.

We tested out a hair-containment system for Jack…

Profile photo of Jack witha  headband holding his hair back.

I loved it. He found it onerous.

We took advantage of more than one swimming pool in my family’s fancy community…

Photo of my three kids walking away from the camera on a step in a swimming pool. In the background is a lake and large lawns.

And because Houston-area children were all in school during Team Stimey’s spring break, we had very little competition for the pool.

We learned new things…

Photo of Richard showing Jack how to play the banjo.

How lucky were we to find not just a banjo, but someone who knows how to use it?

We played spin the bottle…

Photo of my three kids sitting around a table. Quinn is holding an empty plastic bottle.

The bottle landed on me every time. It was delightful.

Some members of Team Stimey discovered sopapillas…

Photo of Quinn eating a sopapilla covered in honey.

I would travel almost anywhere for a good sopapilla.

And we waged silent wars with vaguely threatening birds…

Photo of Alex gazing suspiciously at a bird who seems to be looking back at him.

There’s always a shifty looking bird around, isn’t there?

My mom and Richard are building a new house and we got to go visit it, which was really cool because construction sites are super fun!

Photo of Jack sitting on dirt in front of an unfinished house. He is picking at a big rock.

I can’t tell you how much I love Jack and the way he finds interest in very specific things.

I loved being able to see my mom and Richard’s vision for their house. It’s going to be beautiful. There is a bathroom in that house that I would sell a child for once it’s done. Not my child, but a child.

For now, though, it’s merely a neutral backdrop for a stunningly attractive family.

Photo of Sam, Jack, my mom, me and Quinn standing in dirt in front of a partially built house.

Look at that wacky bunch. (Photo © Richard)

Our last big outing was to Johnson Space Center, which was totally cool. I highly recommend going if you get a chance. You can do all the things that we did. We went to Historic Mission Control, which was super, super cool.

Jack standing in front of a glass window in front of mission control.

Here, Jack, stand in front of historic mission control.

Sam standing in front of a sign for mission control.

Here, Sam, stand in front of the historic mission control sign.

We went to see the Saturn V rocket, which is bigger than you can possibly imagine. It was so cool.

Photo taken from the bottom of the horizontal Saturn V rocket.

It’s in a huge building and I imagined that the rocket would be in there with some other stuff, but the only thing that fits in there is the huge-ass rocket. It’s really cool.

Photo of tiny Quinn in front of a huge circular engine thingy.

Here, Quinn, stand in front of the rocket. This is only one of five engines that launch this thing.

After our tour to mission control and the rocket, we ate lunch, which included a moon pie. This space center is probably the last place where they sell moon pies. (It didn’t really taste very good.)

After moon pies, we wandered around the exhibits for a while. We briefly lost Jack, which was heart stopping and terrifying. That kid is quick and sneaky. Fortunately we found him and quickly switched from a zone defense to man-to-man and no one else got lost. Something terrible did happen to Quinn though.

Photo of a big fake snake head. The snake head mouth is open wide. Quinn is inside reaching out as if he were being swallowed whole.

We’re going to miss him.

I was on Quinn, so I got some excellent photos of him in a variety of locales, but interestingly enough with the exact same expression.

Two photos. One is of Quinn in a giant chair. One is of him inside a giant mastadon jaw. In both photos, he has the same blank face.

He was happier than he looked.

And, yes, those are weird exhibits for a space center. I didn’t get it either.

We had a really good trip. My mom has lived in Houston on and off for a long time now and it was really great to finally get to visit her there. Plus, we had bonus relatives we got to hang out with. I’m really lucky to have such a wonderful family.

Photo of my family, my mom, Richard, my stepsister and her son standing outside a restaurant.

Big love to a big, wonderful family.

Phew. Thanks for sticking around and reading. As a reward I give you this photo of me and Alex where Alex was afflicted by some sort of painful eye injury that left him with one eye swelled almost shut. He was also afflicted with kind of an asshole of a wife who makes fun of him and then posts photos of it on the internet.

Photo of me and Alex. Alex has a big grin on his face and one eye squinted shut due to injury. I have one eye squinted shut just because.

File under “Alex, being a good sport, photos of”

Thank you Nana and Grandpa Richard. We had such a blast visiting you. Thank you for everything.

Photo of my mom and Richard.

Thank you both. We love you!

Some of You Will Mock Me. Some of You Will Be Jealous. You Know Who You Are.

Remember nearly two years ago when we headed out one Saturday morning and returned as cat owners to three kittens, one for each of the kids? We had been worried about acquiring three kittens, because, well, that’s a lot of kittens and it seemed like a lot could go wrong.

Sure enough, Alex and I still have lingering regrets over that day.

We regret that we only got kittens for the kids and not for ourselves. As lovely as three kittens are and as wonderful as the three cats they grew into make our lives, not a week goes by when Alex and I don’t speculate on how much better our lives would be if we had five cats instead of three.

Speculate no longer, friendo.

Photo of Alex on a bench inside a room. He is holding a small white kitten who is sniffing another small white kitten standing on the bench next to him.

Because today at the cat rescue facility, we met our fourth and fifth.

I know. I know you have questions. I have prepared some answers for you.

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE??

That one is an actual question my friend asked on Facebook. It seems valid. I reply with my own questions: How many members of Team Stimey are there? How many cats did we have previously? How are we supposed to live with such an imbalance in those answers?

I think you have your answer, my friend.

Also, keep in mind that I’ve watched said friend share a glass of water with one of my original cats, so I know that she is pro feline—or at least pro-original cats.

Can I see a better photo? What are their names?

Two photos: On the left, a white kitten with one tabby spot above its right ear. The second photo is also of a white cat, but this one has a butterfly-shaped tabby patch on his forehead.

Please meet Sharky on the left and Pickles on the right.

Sharky is my cat and Pickles belongs to Alex.

Are they girls like all your other cats?

No, we had to go with boys this time because they were who we fell in love with, even though we intended to get girl cats. Hey, love is love, right?

I will probably call them “she” seven billion times before I get used to the fact that I have boy cats.

So, how do these two cats know each other anyway?

They’re brothers. They’re two months old. Their mom is still up for adoption at the cat shelter if you’re looking for a cat to be your only pet.

Photo of an adoption flyer for a cat named Jazzy.

Check her out at the Washington Animal Rescue League. If you adopted her, it would be like we were related. (It’s not as bad as it sounds.)

What did these delightful animals do at the cat shelter to make you pick them?

Alex went into a little room with them first while I talked to a volunteer. By the time I got in there, he was completely enamored with Pickles, who was cavorting all over in the goofiest way possible. Sharky was far shyer, but then I picked him up and he instantly started to purr and it was all over.

Also:

Two photos. (1) Sharky is standing in the corner of a small room looking startled. There is one cat paw completely outstretched aimed at her. (2) a blurry photo of Sharky with ears back cowering in a corner. Pickles is in a hilarious posture attacking her.

I love that in the first photo all you see is the paw getting ready to strike. That second photo is everything good about kittens, from the awkward attack pose to the fact that Sharky clonked into the glass wall.

Don’t you worry though. Once we got them home, Sharky totally stepped up and is being as big of a jerk as Pickles.

But seriously. Five cats? FIVE? Really?

I figure as long as the pet shelter is still willing to give us cats, we don’t have too many. However, I am afraid that the receptionist at my vet hospital is going to make fun of me. Maybe he’ll be on vacation when I take them in—you know, every time I take them in.

Is Pickles named after the firefighter cat Pickles in the Jenny and the Cat Club series?

Sadly, no. The name just came to Alex at some point and that was it. The name idea is probably older than the cat actually. Naturally I was okay with the name because of the firefighter cat. Also because Pickles is one of the best cat names in the history of cat names.

Okay, Pickles. I get that. Cute. And there is a cat precedent. But Sharky? That seems weird, even for you, Stimey.

I’ve just started watching House of Cards and I watched the first episode where Frank is all, “I love that woman. I love her more than sharks love blood,” and I was all-in on sharks, blood, House of Cards, and vague television-related allusions in pet names. I am also terrified of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright on that series, but that is neither here nor there.

So, yeah, Sharky.

Also, he has a fin-shaped spot on his forehead.

Also, he’s a super badass.

Photo of Sharky curled in a small ball, fast asleep on a stack of papers.

See? Super badass.

How are they settling in?

Really well. I mean, they really did not care for the trip home in the car, but once we got them out of the carrier in Alex and my bedroom, they got all confident and goofy and hilarious.

Photo of Pickles and Sharky lying next to each other on a brown striped blanket.

I didn’t get any photos of that, but here they are pre-nap.

How are the other cats taking it? Were they all, “Really? Five cats? FIVE?!?”

We have a whole process planned to introduce the cats to each other. See, we have a really good cat ecosystem here and we are concerned about throwing the whole thing sideways so we want to make sure all parties get along. The kittens are sequestered in one room for a couple of days and the cats are all sniffing each other from under the door while we throw treats at them.

Photo of Pickles standing in a hallway in front of a door. There is a large gap between the door and the floor. In the gap is visible the mustache of Oreo.

See, here’s Pickles acclimating…and what is that over by the door?

Closeup of the mustache of Oreo under the door gap.

Well, it seems to be a mustache, sniffing.

Fingers crossed, knock on wood, toss some salt, etc. We’ll let you know how it goes.

How is Team Stimey Jr. taking it?

About how you’d expect. Tears. Screaming. Rending of garments.

I kid. They’re clearly over the moon. Each of them asked to sleep on the floor in the room where the kittens are tonight. We refused, in an effort to (a) keep things normal for our original trio and (b) keep children out of our bedroom.

We didn’t tell the kids we were getting cats today because we weren’t 100% sure we were going to. So their little minds were blown by surprise kittens. What is better than surprise kittens?

(Answer: nothing.)

Jack crouching with Pickles on his knee.

Jack and Pickles

Photo of Sam lying on the ground with a sleeping Sharky in front of him.

Sam and Sharky

Pickles holding on to a foot with his paw and her mouth trying to bite the big toe.

Quinn’s toe and Pickles (Quinn was sort of “clothing optional” this afternoon, so you’ll have to settle for this photo of  his toe.)

But five cats? Who really needs five cats?

We do, all right? There are a lot of homeless pets in the world and these guys are getting a good home, so I’ll take all of your judging and raised eyebrows. (This is mostly directed at my mom, who is incredulous about our wanting so many cats, but takes full advantage of kitten love when she visits.)

Also, please look at these photos and then tell me we didn’t need so many cats.

Photo of Pickles standing on a blue carpet. He's super cute in it.

Pickles (Ooooooh…)

Photo of Sharky sitting down and gazing off camera.

Sharky (and ahhhhhhh.)

I know I sound a little defensive here, but that’s only because we have five cats. FIVE. I mean, really.

Did you intend to get color coordinated cats?

No, but what a happy cowinkydink, right?!?

Three photos. (1) Black cat Ruby (2) black and white cat Oreo (3) black cat with white spot Starfire

Are the cats in black and white or color? No one knows!

How is Quinn going to turn in his homework if the cats are sleeping on it all the time?

Photo of two packets of paper (Quinn's homework). Sharky is asleep on one and Pickles is lying on the other.

I don’t know. I just don’t know the answer to that one.

The Portrait of Oreo Black & White

You all are familiar with this cat, right?

Photo of Oreo on a chair. Starfire is cuddled up as close to her as possible.

The black and white one. The black one is just a cuddling opportunist.

Well. That is Oreo and she is Quinn’s cat. Quinn is super obsessed with Oreo. Oreo is pretty obsessed with Quinn too, so it works out. I’ll put it this way: If you’ve met Quinn, you’ve heard about Oreo. No exceptions.

Today Quinn turned 10 and his gifts were rife with Oreo references.

For example, here is a photo of Quinn right after he opened a birthday gift from my mom, which was a water bottle with a photo of Quinn and Oreo on it:

Photo of Quinn with a huge smile on his face. He is holding a water bottle with a picture of him and Oreo on it.

Look at his face. SO happy.

I mean, he was also really happy that I got him a DustBuster, so the bar is maybe not too high, but you know what I mean, right?

So imagine what happened to Quinn’s face when he saw that I commissioned a portrait of Oreo for his birthday. Oh, don’t imagine. Here it is:

Photo of Quinn, contorted in glee, looking at something out of the camera frame. Jack is standing next to him. Sam is too, but the camera has cut off his head.

Let’s brush aside the fact that Sam is so tall that he didn’t make it into this photo.

That, incidentally, is also the face I made when I saw the thing. It is SO good.

watercolor and ink portrait of Oreo

Seriously. It is just so damn good.

Then Sam grabbed Oreo and she was all, “What is happening? Help!”

Photo of Alex holding the framed Oreo painting. Sam is holding Oreo. She looks concerned.

I love this photo.

In case you’re wondering, I got the art from the Pet Art Gallery on Etsy. I contacted the artist, who is in the United Kingdom, on May 5. She painted the thing, submitted it to me for approval, and shipped it so that it arrived on May 20, two days before Quinn’s birthday. I cannot recommend her enough.

There is a lot of jealousy amongst the other members of Team Stimey Junior. I have a feeling that I have some great Christmas presents already lined up for two of them.

Photo of Ruby sitting on a chair in front of the portrait of Oreo.

Which is good, because someone seems a little surly that she wasn’t selected for a portrait.